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Little evidence that colchicine benefits COVID-19 patients, Quebec advisory panel finds

Clinical experts with the Quebec government say there isn’t enough evidence yet for them to recommend widespread use of colchicine to treat COVID-19 patients, dampening hopes the drug could be a short-term tool to reduce hospitalizations and deaths.

Last month, the Montreal Heart Institute released a statement vaunting the results of a clinical trial that found the rate of hospitalization or death was 21 per cent lower among patients who took colchicine, compared to a placebo. It reported even more impressive results among “patients with a proven diagnosis.” 

The findings made headlines around the world. Premier François Legault called the results “big news.”

Colchicine is a cheap, widely available drug in Canada, well-known to doctors for its effectiveness at treating gout. And so far physicians have struggled to find effective drug treatments for the new disease.

The news release, though, left out key elements of the study. When the researchers released more detailed findings, their peers in the medical community struck a more cautious tone.

The $ 14-million colchicine study was funded by the Quebec government and several organizations. (Ivanoh Demers/Radio-Canada)

McGill’s Office for Science and Society joined several others in decrying a practise known as “science by press release,” where seemingly exciting findings are published by funding bodies before being peer-reviewed and with little in the way of data.

Amid the controversy, the Quebec provincial government’s clinical research institute (known by its French initials as the INESSS) quickly undertook its own detailed analysis of the colchicine study.

In a briefing Thursday with journalists, the INESSS experts said based on the available evidence they consider it “premature to support the use of colchicine in non-hospitalized persons with a diagnosis of COVID-19.”

Finding inconclusive, INESSS says

The $ 14-million colchicine study, funded in part by the Quebec government, was launched in March, initially with the aim of recruiting 6,000 people in six different countries.

Led by Dr. Jean-Claude Tardif, director of the Montreal Heart Institute’s research centre, the investigators wanted to see whether the anti-inflammatory medication would limit symptoms of the disease in people with pre-existing medical conditions. 

But the study was halted after recruiting 4,500 participants. The researchers cited both logistical issues and the desire to get results to health-care professionals as quickly as possible, given the strain the pandemic was placing on hospital resources.

In its review, the INESSS said that was the right decision given the circumstances, and acknowledged Tardif’s hypothesis and research design were sound.

Dr. Luc Boileau, the president of the advisory body, said the move to publish the results in a press release, ahead of peer-review, was “not irresponsible but is infrequent.”

“We’re in the context of a pandemic … and there is a legitimate public interest in the results,” he said.

But following a close reading of those results, the advisory body determined there was insufficient evidence to draw firm conclusions about the benefits of colchicine for COVID-19 patients.

A nurse at Brattleboro Memorial Hospital, in Vermont, draws up the Moderna COVID-19 vaccine into a syringe. (Kristopher Radder/The Brattleboro Reformer/The Associated Press)


The participants in the study included patients who tested positive via the gold-standard PCR test, as well as those who had been diagnosed simply by virtue of having been exposed to someone with the virus (known as an epidemiological link).

When those two groups were considered together, there was no statistically significant difference in hospitalizations or deaths between participants receiving colchicine and those receiving a placebo, said Dr. Michèle de Guise, who headed the review.

There was a statistically significant difference among those who tested positive through PCR. In this smaller group, those who received the drug were 25 per cent less likely to die or require hospitalizations when compared with the placebo group.

That was one of the findings that went into the news release put out by the Montreal Heart Institute. But when considered in absolute terms, the difference is less impressive.

In the placebo group, six per cent of the 2,084 subjects either died or required hospitalization. In the experimental group, 4.6 per cent of 2,075 subjects died or required hospitalization.

From a clinical perspective, that 1.4 percentage point difference “means that 71 patients would need to be treated with colchicine to achieve one less event,” said de Guise.

Potentially alarming side effect

The study also turned up a potentially frightening side-effect. Eleven participants who took colchicine experienced a pulmonary embolism, compared with two in the placebo group.

That alarmed the experts INESSS consulted, de Guise said.

“That was unexpected and it worried them,” she added.

The INESSS stressed its findings were preliminary and said it would review them as more data becomes available. 

In the meantime, COVID-19 patients interested in using the drug should have a discussion with their physician, said Boileau.

Quebec’s Health Ministry said it would issue guidelines on colchicine treatments for COVID-19 after taking the time to analyze the recommendations made by the INESSS.

A spokesperson for the Montreal Heart Institute said Thursday they too would read the INESSS report before commenting.

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CDPR Apologizes for Cyberpunk 2077 Launch, but Explains Very Little

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Late on Wednesday, CD Projekt Red co-founder Marcin Iwinski posted a video in which he apologized for Cyberpunk 2077’s abysmal console launch. Iwinski took responsibility for the decision to launch the title and its subsequent unacceptably poor performance on the base Xbox One and PlayStation 4.

The video covers three broad topics. First, there’s the apology. Second, Iwinski offers some comments on “how the situation looked from the inside.” Third, he gives some detail on what players can expect in the future as far as updates and improvements. As far as the apology is concerned, Iwinski’s comments are clear and concise. There’s no real dodging, as far as responsibility.

His explanation for how the console version got so screwed up, however, leaves something to be desired. According to Iwinksi, the reason the Xbox One and PS4 look so bad is that the company put almost all its effort into prepping the launch on PC. It assumed, according to Iwinksi, that it could simply turn detail levels back down and have an acceptable product to work with.

This is in direct contradiction to multiple statements CDPR made over the course of Cyberpunk 2077’s development. The company told gamers that the game was constantly evaluated on all platforms. It told gamers that they could expect a good visual experience relative to what the console systems were capable of. During its October investor call, CDPR told investors that there were no problems with the console versions other than minor, normal bug fixing.

It’s nice to know that the console versions weren’t being evaluated, but there’s no explanation of why employees, executives, and board members of the company misrepresented the state of game development over a sustained period of time.

Iwinski does give us a hint at what isn’t working well on last-gen systems. According to him, getting data to stream in properly in Cyberpunk 2077 when running on the base consoles was more difficult than the company assumed due to the need to constantly improve the streaming engine. He also claimed that “our testing did not show a big part of the issues you experienced while playing the game.”

The only way CDPR didn’t experience the issues of its players is if CDPR didn’t playtest the game or didn’t listen to its playtesters. The console versions are instantly bad. The PC version, while vastly better on high-end hardware, was still very buggy at launch. Supposedly, the company believed that it could genuinely bring the Xbox and PS4 versions of the game fully up to snuff by launch date.

I flatly don’t believe this. Or, rather — I believe it, in the sense that some executives may have been willing to throw the console version of the game under a bus to hit their sales targets, to the point that they convinced themselves a game as catastrophically broken as CP2077 on Xbox One / PS4 could be fixed in a few short weeks. Maybe some people arrogantly believed there was no need for serious playtesting or bug-fixing cycles, but if so, that was highly motivated and suspect reasoning.

I cannot claim to have worked in game development, but I’ve worked on a multi-team modding project that sank several thousand hours of collective effort into a product we released for public download, and I’ve worked on my DS9 remastering project for most of a year. In both cases, I absolutely had a sense of when I might or might not be able to write a new story or release an update / new version. When you’re as deep in bug-fixing hell as CP2077 clearly was, right up until the moment it released, there’s no way you’re going to magically clear those problems and launch an acceptable game.

Either someone at the company knew about this, and that person got silenced, or the company is so poorly organized, necessary information about the state of its product failed to reach the people who most needed to hear it.

The developers actually assigned to fix the console version would have known the game wasn’t going to be ready for December 10. Marcin Iwinski says that “we” believed the game would be ready to launch. He doesn’t clarify if that refers to other people in corporate leadership, or if that was the opinion of the programmers who were actually working on the game. I wouldn’t bet on the latter.

Finally, we’ve got some news on what’s happening next. The January update will drop within 10 days, but the update coming in February was only described as arriving “in the following weeks.” After this round of work is done, the company will get started on the Xbox Series X and PlayStation 5 enhancements, which will now likely be delayed into 2021.

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Football gave us a little bit of everything this weekend

This is an excerpt from The Buzzer, which is CBC Sports’ daily email newsletter. Stay up to speed on what’s happening in sports by subscribing here.

Here’s what you need to know right now from the world of sports:

It was an interesting football weekend, to say the least

Here’s some of the stuff that happened in the pro and college games:

The NFL made the Broncos play without a quarterback. All four on Denver’s roster were ruled out of yesterday’s game vs. New Orleans after third-stringer Jeff Driskel tested positive for the coronavirus and the other three were deemed close contacts. The NFL had warned teams it wouldn’t bail them out if they broke health protocols, and the Broncos’ QBs reportedly didn’t wear masks in their meetings. So the league refused to postpone the game, forcing Denver to promote practice-squad wide receiver Kendall Hinton, who hadn’t played quarterback since his freshman year of college, to handle passing duties. The Broncos minimized his role by doing a lot of direct snaps to their running backs, and Hinton finished the day 1-of-9 for 13 yards passing in a tragicomic 31-3 loss. Denver safety Kareem Jackson said afterwards that it seemed the NFL was “making an example of us.”

Speaking of making an example, the Ravens-Steelers game has been postponed again. Nearly two dozen Baltimore players have been placed on the reserve/COVID-19 list over the last week, causing the game to be moved from Thursday to Sunday to Tuesday to Wednesday night. Like the Broncos, the Ravens were reportedly guilty of breaking rules, so the NFL is determined to go ahead with the game despite several key players — including Baltimore QB and reigning NFL MVP Lamar Jackson — being ruled out. Read more about the AFC North contest’s latest date change.

Sarah Fuller made college football history. She became the first woman to play in one of the Power Five conferences when she booted the second-half kickoff for Vanderbilt in its 41-0 loss to Missouri on Saturday. Vanderbilt turned to Fuller, who plays for the school’s women’s soccer team, after coronavirus issues left it with few kicking options. She said she made a 38-yard field goal in practice, but she didn’t get a chance to try one Saturday as the overmatched Commodores rarely even crossed mid-field. It’s unclear whether Fuller will remain with the 0-8 team after its head coach was fired yesterday. Read more about Fuller’s barrier-breaking day and watch her kickoff here.

Callie Brownson made NFL history. The Cleveland Browns’ (aptly named) chief of staff became the first woman to coach a position group during a regular-season game when she oversaw the Browns’ tight ends for Sunday’s 27-25 win over Jacksonville. Cleveland’s usual tight-ends coach was away from the team after his wife gave birth. Read more about Brownson and her role with the Browns here.

Canadian receiver John Metchie III helped the top-ranked college team stay perfect. Metchie made six catches for 55 yards and two touchdowns in No. 1 Alabama’s 42-13 blowout of No. 22-ranked rival Auburn. The win improved the Crimson Tide to 8-0 ahead of Saturday’s rescheduled game at LSU. The Tigers are the defending national champs, but they’re just 3-4 this season after losing several stars to the NFL. Alabama then wraps up the regular season with an easy matchup vs. Arkansas, so Metchie and the Tide should keep their No. 1 ranking for the four-team College Football Playoff starting New Year’s Day.

Tyreek Hill and Patrick Mahomes had themselves a day. Mahomes threw for 359 yards in the first half alone and finished with 462 in Kansas City’s 27-24 win over Tampa Bay. His go-to guy was Hill, who piled up 203 yards receiving and two touchdowns in the first quarter and finished with 13 catches for 269 yards, three TDs and one backflip:


Another football first: Stephanie Frappart is about to become the first woman to referee a men’s UEFA Champions League match. The 36-year-old Frenchwoman has been put in charge of Wednesday’s group-stage game between Juventus and Dynamo Kyiv. Last year, Frappart became the first woman to ref in a major UEFA competition when she worked a Super Cup match between Liverpool and Chelsea. She was also the first female referee in France’s top league, and she officiated the 2019 Women’s World Cup final between the United States and the Netherlands.

The San Francisco 49ers are (temporarily) moving to Arizona. They needed a new place to play their home games after the county the team is based in banned contact sports as part of its measures to control the coronavirus. The 49ers, who beat the Rams in Los Angeles yesterday, worked out a deal to use the Arizona Cardinals’ stadium for the next two weeks. They’ll host Buffalo there next Monday and Washington the Sunday after that.

Romain Grosjean is lucky to be alive. After sliding off the track at more than 200 km/h during the first lap of yesterday’s Bahrain Grand Prix, the French Formula One driver’s car hit a barrier, got sliced in two and exploded into a fireball. Grosjean managed to climb out and somehow escaped the crash with only minor burns on the back of his hands. Shortly after the race restarted an hour and a half later, Canadian driver Lance Stroll’s car flipped over. Hanging upside down, he wriggled out uninjured. Read more about the chaotic race and watch both crashes here.

France’s Romain Grosjean crashed heavily into barrier splitting the car in half at the Bahrain F1 race. Grosjean walked away from the crash with minor injuries. 2:59

And in case you missed it…

Mike Tyson’s return to the ring went well enough. But a YouTuber stole the show. Fighting for the first time in 15 years, the 54-year-old Tyson battled fellow boxing great Roy Jones Jr., 51, to an unofficial draw in their eight-round exhibition on Saturday night. Though just about everyone agreed Tyson should have been judged the winner, most pay-per-view customers seemed relatively satisfied with the main event. But the biggest buzz came from the undercard, where YouTube star Jake Paul made like a young Iron Mike and knocked former NBA guard (and Slam Dunk Contest champ) Nate Robinson out cold. Paul had some experience in the ring (he TKO’d fellow YouTuber AnEsonGib earlier this year) while Robinson was making his pro debut. It showed. He got knocked down three times and became an internet meme with the last one.

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Remdesivir has little effect on hospital stay or mortality in COVID-19 patients, WHO study finds

Gilead Sciences Inc.’s remdesivir had little or no effect on COVID-19 patients’ length of hospital stay or chances of survival, a clinical trial by the World Health Organization (WHO) has found.

The antiviral medication, among the first to be used as a treatment for COVID-19, was one of the drugs recently used to treat U.S. President Donald Trump’s coronavirus infection.

The results are from WHO’s “solidarity” trial, which evaluated the effects of four potential drug regimens, including remdesivir, hydroxychloroquine, anti-HIV drug combination lopinavir/ritonavir and interferon, in 11,266 adult patients across more than 30 countries.

The study found the regimens appeared to have little or no effect on 28-day mortality or the length of the in-hospital course among patients hospitalized with COVID-19, the WHO said on Thursday.

The results of the trial are yet to be reviewed and were uploaded on the preprint server medRxiv. 

Earlier this month, data from a U.S. study of remdesivir by Gilead, the company that developed the drug, showed the treatment cut COVID-19 recovery time by five days compared with patients who got a placebo in a trial that involved 1,062 patients.

“The emerging [WHO] data appears inconsistent, with more robust evidence from multiple randomized, controlled studies published in peer-reviewed journals validating the clinical benefit of remdesivir,” Gilead told Reuters.

“We are concerned the data from this open-label global trial has not undergone the rigorous review required to allow for constructive scientific discussion, particularly given the limitations of the trial design.”

WHO chief scientist Soumya Swaminathan said on Wednesday that during the study, hydroxychloroquine and lopinavir/ritonavir were stopped in June after they proved ineffective, but other trials continued in more than 500 hospitals and 30 countries.

“We’re looking at what’s next. We’re looking at monoclonal antibodies, we’re looking at immunomodulators and some of the newer anti-viral drugs that have been developed in the last few months,” Swaminathan said.

Remdesivir received emergency use authorization from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration on May 1, and has been authorized for use in several countries.

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Amid unusual circumstances, Lafreniere goes 1st as NHL draft offers little surprise

There was little surprise at the very top of the NHL’s pandemic-delayed draft Tuesday.

The New York Rangers chose star winger Alexis Lafreniere, the presumptive No. 1 pick since January, with the first selection.

But following a just-completed season like no other — one suspended in March, restarted in August and completed late last month inside a tightly-controlled bubble without fans thanks to COVID-19 — there were bound to be twists with teams and NHL hopefuls linking up remotely instead of being under one roof at Montreal’s Bell Centre.

First there was some timely draft history, then an appearance by a Canadian celebrity, and finally, an emotional selection made by the widow of a hockey icon.

To start things off, however, the night belonged to Lafreniere, a star winger from the Rimouski Oceanic of the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League. He registered 35 goals and 112 points in 52 games before the 2019-20 season was cancelled because of the pandemic.

“It was an unreal feeling,” Lafreniere, sporting his new team’s hat and jersey, said on a video conference call from the family home in St-Eustache, Que., after having his name called first. “The New York Rangers are a great organization.”

WATCH | Rangers make Lafreniere top pick:

Alexis Lafrenière from Saint-Eustache, Que., is chosen by the New York Rangers as the first overall pick of the 2020 NHL draft. 0:27

Just the second back-to-back recipient of the Canadian Hockey League’s player of the year award, following in the footsteps of fellow Rimouski captain Sidney Crosby in 2004 and 2005, Lafreniere was NHL Central Scouting’s top-ranked North American skater and long-viewed as the consensus choice at No. 1.

The draft, which was originally scheduled for June 26 and 27, continues Wednesday with rounds two through seven before NHL free agency opens 48 hours later.

“We’ve been waiting for a long time so it was something really special,” added Lafreniere, the first Canadian to go No. 1 since the Edmonton Oilers selected Connor McDavid in 2015. “We’re all really excited.”

Before the Lafreniere pick, commissioner Gary Bettman announced the league and players are now focused on starting next season on Jan. 1 after previously aiming to get things going Dec. 1.

The Los Angeles Kings had the second selection and chose six-foot-four centre Quinton Byfield of the Ontario Hockey League’s Sudbury Wolves. Byfield became the highest Black player picked in NHL draft history after Evander Kane (2009) and Seth Jones (2013) each went fourth overall.

“That definitely means a lot to me,” Byfield said. “Being in the record books for anything is super special, but that especially.”

WATCH | Byfield makes history at second overall:

Quinton Byfield from Newmarket, Ont., is selected 2nd overall in the 2020 NHL draft by the Los Angeles Kings. 0:35

The Ottawa Senators used the No. 3 selection, which they acquired from San Jose as part of the Erik Karlsson trade two years ago, to grab shifty German winger Tim Stuetzle, with University of Ottawa graduate and “Jeopardy!” host Alex Trebek announcing the pick in a pre-taped appearance.

“I didn’t know like 100 per cent what was going on with [the No. 2 and 3] picks,” Stuetzle said. “It’s just a big honour to play for the capital of Canada.”

General manager Pierre Dorion said Trebek’s appearance was the idea of team owner Eugene Melnyk, adding the gameshow icon recorded versions for Lafreniere, Byfield and Stuetzle.

Trebek’s inclusion even got a thumbs up from Toronto Maple Leafs GM Kyle Dubas.

“One of the highlights for me in all my time watching drafts,” Dubas said.

WATCH | Alex Trebek announces Senators’ 1st pick:

Alex Trebek, the host of ‘Jeopardy!’ and University of Ottawa graduate, announces that the Senators selected Tim Stuetzle as the 3rd overall pick of the 2020 NHL draft. 0:58

The top-ranked European skater, Stuetzle spent this season with Adler Mannheim in his country’s top professional league, where he was named rookie of the year. He’s also the third German-trained player to be drafted in the top-6, matching 2020 Hart Trophy winner Leon Draisaitl’s selection at No. 3 by Edmonton six years ago.

“I want to win Cups in Ottawa, and I want to play in the NHL as fast as I can,” added Stuetzle, who admitted with a smile he doesn’t watch “Jeopardy!”

The Detroit Red Wings, who dropped from No. 1 to No. 4 in the first phase of the NHL’s draft lottery in June, got Swedish winger Lucas Raymond with their pick.

Ottawa was back on the clock with its own selection at No. 5 and chose blue-liner Jake Sanderson from the U.S. under-18 program to become the first team since 2000 to make two picks in the top-5.

The Senators, who have largely made headlines for all the wrong reasons since getting within a goal of the 2017 Stanley Cup final, hope securing Stuetzle and Sanderson will accelerate a rebuild that saw a roster once led by Karlsson — the team’s captain and a two-time Norris Trophy-winning defenceman — torn down to its studs.

“It’s one of the biggest nights in this franchise’s history,” Dorion said.

The son of former NHLer Geoff Sanderson took in proceedings with his family from a suite at the University of North Dakota’s home arena where he started his first semester this fall.

“It’s a little bit different draft this year,” Sanderson said. “But I think it’s kind of special in its own way.”

The Winnipeg Jets had Crystal Hawerchuk, wife of the late Dale Hawerchuk, make their selection of centre Cole Perfetti from the OHL’s Saginaw Spirit at No. 10.

Dale Hawerchuk, who became the face of the original Jets en route to the Hall of Fame, died in August at age 57 after a battle with cancer.

“Just the raw emotion that everyone feels and then the love that we feel for Dale and his family,” Jets GM Kevin Cheveldayoff said when reflecting on the moment. “Just the way the stars aligned in our 10th year when we had the opportunity for the 10th pick, we had the idea of who better to make it than the greatest No. 10 in the Winnipeg Jets history?”

“It just felt so special.”

The Oilers took centre Dylan Holloway at No. 14, the Leafs selected Russian winger Rodion Amirov at No. 15 and the Montreal Canadiens snagged defenceman Kaiden Guhle at No. 16. Earlier in the day, Montreal traded forward Max Domi and a third-round pick to Columbus for winger Josh Anderson.

The Calgary Flames traded down twice from No. 19 to No. 22 and then finally to No. 24 where they took centre Connor Zary.

The Senators selected centre Ridly Greig at No. 28, which originally belonged to the New York Islanders. The Vancouver Canucks, meanwhile, don’t have a selection until Wednesday’s third round.

Unlike their NFL or NBA counterparts, NHL teams are usually seated at tables on the floor of one of the league’s 31 arenas for its draft, but the 2020 edition saw general managers and much of their scouting staffs spread across North America.

Cheveldayoff said it was nice to be able to talk out in the open and not have to try and hide his draft list, but there were downsides.

“There’s nothing like being able to meet the player right away, give him the jersey, have him put it on and just feel their excitement,” he said.

The prospects set to take their first steps into the NHL, meanwhile, all watched proceedings away from the usual bright lights. First-round hopefuls were each sent gear from the league’s 31 teams so they’d have some swag once their names were called.

Lafreniere and his counterparts didn’t get the normal thrill of climbing on stage in front of friends and family, but the night will be memorable nonetheless for every player picked.

“It’s different, and we didn’t expect that a couple of months ago,” Lafreniere said. “Growing up, you’re dreaming of being drafted.

“And for me today, it’s amazing to go first.”

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Lynn Shelton, Director of ‘Little Fires Everywhere’ and ‘Humpday,’ Dead at 54

Lynn Shelton, Director of ‘Little Fires Everywhere’ and ‘Humpday,’ Dead at 54 | Entertainment Tonight

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Ashley ‘Minnie’ Ross, ‘Little Women: Atlanta’ Star, Dead at 34

Ashley ‘Minnie’ Ross, ‘Little Women: Atlanta’ Star, Dead at 34 | Entertainment Tonight

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Oilers Colby Cave fondly remembered from the little leagues all the way to the NHL

As a hockey dad, Joe Hutzal felt for the Edmonton Oilers back on Dec. 6 as they prepared to clash with the Los Angeles Kings.

Hutzal’s son Jacob and the rest of the Stony Plain Atom 2 Predators had the honour of standing on the Edmonton bench during the pre-game warm-up.

‘”In a way, I felt like the kids were slightly intruding on the players’ regular routine,” Hutzal says. “They were getting into game mode.”

Undeterred, a minor-league journeyman named Colby Cave – wearing No. 12 for the Oilers – leaned over the boards and took time to chat with the enraptured Predators. Hutzal snapped a photo of a moment his son, and his teammates, will never forget.

Cave died on Saturday at Toronto’s Sunnybrook Hospital. He was 25.

The Edmonton Oilers forward underwent emergency surgery on Tuesday to remove a colloid cyst that caused bleeding on the brain.

The picture of Cave and the Stony Plain Predators is just one illuminating snapshot of a young man known as much for his character as his hockey prowess.

“To see a guy – a call-up running out of chances to stick in the league – going out of his way to talk with them struck a chord with me,” Hutzal says. “There would have been so many other things on his mind, but he felt it was important to spend some time with the kids regardless of his status on the team.”

The hockey world – already stunned by the sudden shutdown necessitated by the COVID-19 pandemic – hoped and prayed for a better outcome when news broke last week that Cave was in a medically-induced coma.

The former Swift Current Broncos captain never woke up.

His wife Emily wrote a heartbreaking post Saturday on Instagram: “You are and always will be my person, my hero, the greatest thing to ever happen to me.

And then: “I never dreamed of being a widow before our first wedding anniversary.”

Outpouring of grief from NHL players

Fellow players, fans and complete strangers – many of them stuck at home in hopes of reducing the spread of COVID-19 – also turned to social media to pay tribute and grieve.

“Just doesn’t make any sense,” Oilers captain Connor McDavid wrote on Instagram. “Heavy, heavy heart today as I try to wrap my head around this.

“You were an amazing person and always brought so much energy and positivity into the room and in people’s lives.

Cave grew up on Al and Jennifer Cave’s cattle farm outside of Battleford, Sask. Undrafted, he kept chasing his NHL dream against the odds upon graduation from junior.

“This has hit our community very hard,” says Ryan Switzer, manager of digital media for the Swift Current Broncos. “Swift Current is a small town, and the players are such celebrities during their time here. It’s the whole Friday Night Lights thing. And Colby was such a good player.

Cave logged three seasons with AHL Providence before finally cracking the Boston Bruins lineup in 2018-19. He scored his first NHL goal in style on a feed from David Pastrnak against Montreal Canadiens superstar Carey Price.

Cave collected one goal in 11 games this season with Edmonton — a highlight-reel marker on Pittsburgh Penguins goalie Matt Murray. He registered 11 goals and 23 points in 44 games this season with the Bakersfield Condors, of the AHL.

“If he was sent to the American Hockey League or if he was a healthy scratch, he just dug in, went to work and supported his teammates,” says Edmonton Oilers general manager Ken Holland. “And when he was in our lineup, he did everything he could to help the team win. He practised hard and was a true professional.

“He was a very well-liked and well-respected player in the locker-room.”

Cave was liked inside his own locker-room and respected in much wider circles. Last October, while playing for Bakersfield, Cave knocked out 20-year-old Calgary Flames prospect Martin Popisil in a lopsided fight.

The next day, Popisil shared a text he received from his rival.

“Hey buddy, it’s Cave from the other side, just wanted to reach out and hope you’re ok buddy,” Cave wrote. “You’re a tough kid, and I respect a guy that stands up for himself. Hope you have a quick recovery buddy.”

It’s no wonder Cave was so highly regarded. And beloved.

“I don’t understand any of it,” former Oilers forward Sam Gagner wrote on Twitter. “What I do know is that Colby will be deeply missed.”

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‘Have a little compassion’: Canadians on cruise ship with 4 dead still unsure how they’ll get home

With a flu-like illness outbreak, four dead and confirmed cases of COVID-19, it’s been a horrific week for the 1,243 passengers — including 247 Canadians — stuck aboard the Zaandam, a Holland America Line cruise ship that was sailing off the coast of Panama.

Now, passengers can add more problems to the list: although Panama allowed the Zaandam to pass through the Panama Canal, passengers still don’t know for certain where the cruise ship will dock, and when they’ll be able to return home. 

That’s because while the ship has plans to dock and let passengers disembark in Fort Lauderdale, Fla., county officials in the region are concerned about letting in a coronavirus-hit ship.

“They’re not wanting us there, so where are we going to go?” said passenger Cheryle Stothard of Toronto. She and her husband have been confined to their cabin for the past week, because of the illness outbreak. 

“Going through the Panama Canal is useless if we can’t get off in Florida,” said the 71-year-old.

Cheryle Stothard and husband Tony of Toronto are still aboard the Zaandam and have developed a cough and runny nose. (Submitted by Cheryle Stothard)

Since cutting short its South American cruise on March 14 due to the growing COVID-19 pandemic, the Zaandam has been seeking a place to dock so passengers can return home. 

On Friday, Holland America announced that 138 passengers and crew have fallen ill with “influenza-like illness symptoms,” and that four “older” passengers had died. The Zaandam is also carrying 586 crew members — one of whom is Canadian.

None of the dead is Canadian. Holland America didn’t provide a cause of death for the four passengers but said that the ship tested “a number” of patients for COVID-19 on Thursday, and two were positive.

Passengers grew hopeful on the weekend after learning that the Zaandam could pass through the Panama Canal. Late Sunday, the ship began moving through the canal.

But Holland America’s plan to then dock in Fort Lauderdale isn’t a done deal because Broward County, which includes the city, has yet to give the green light. 

Broward County Commissioner Michael Udine told CBC News that the county is already overrun with COVID-19 cases — more than 1,000 to date  — so he’s apprehensive about letting in a ship that will add to its problems. 

“We’re a hotspot here. Our medical facilities are taxed,” said Udine. “If there are sick people that have to come off, I want them to be able to come off … but where are they going to go? What hospitals are going to be able to take them?”

‘Somebody’s got to let us dock’

Udine’s apprehension is upsetting for passenger Margaret Tilley, who’s desperate to return to her home in Nanaimo, B.C.

“Let’s have a little compassion,” said the 71-year-old. “It just doesn’t seem right. Somebody’s got to let us dock.” 

The Zaandam began its cruise on March 7 and had initially planned to dock on March 16 in Punta Arenas, Chile, to let passengers off early. However, the country refused to allow passengers to disembark, so the ship set course for Fort Lauderdale. 

On Saturday, Tilley and her husband were moved to the Zaandam’s sister ship, the Rotterdam. Holland America sent the ship, along with medical personnel and supplies, to rendezvous with the Zaandam and transfer “healthy” passengers to the Rotterdam.

Just let us get straight from the boat to a vehicle and to the airport. We don’t want to stay in Fort Lauderdale.– Margaret Tilley, passenger

Both ships got permission to enter the Panama canal. Tilley said she wants Broward County to know that the healthy Canadians onboard won’t be a burden and just want to get home. 

“Just let us get straight from the boat to a vehicle and to the airport. We don’t want to stay in Fort Lauderdale.”

The Rotterdam cruise ship joined the Zaandam on Friday to deliver medical supplies and transfer healthy passengers to the Rotterdam. (Submitted by Margaret Tilley)

Udine said that all the passengers would have to be quarantined upon arrival, because some could be asymptomatic.

“There’s a lot of things that are going to need to be worked out by this cruise ship before they simply get disembarking in Broward County.”

Udine said the county will review a plan for how Holland America will handle the situation and likely make a decision soon. 

Meanwhile, more passengers are reporting illnesses. Stothard said that she and her husband Tony have both developed a runny nose and cough. That means they must remain in their cabin, on board the Zaandam along with other ill passengers, who are in isolation. 

“We’ve got to get off,” said Stothard. “The longer we stay on here, the more cases we’re going to have.”

Passengers Chris and Anna Joiner send a message to the Canadian government asking for help while stuck on board the Zaandam. (Submitted by Chris Joiner)

Why did they go on a cruise?

Some CBC readers wondered why passengers boarded a cruise on March 7 when COVID-19 was spreading globally.

CBC News asked several Canadian passengers aboard the Zaandam this question. They responded that when they started their journey, there were very few COVID-19 cases in South America. 

The continent didn’t have any reported cases until one was confirmed in Brazil on Feb. 26. 

Some passengers also said that, when they were set to begin their trip, there was no opportunity to get a refund. 

Tilley and her husband left Nanaimo on Feb. 28 and travelled for a week in Argentina before their cruise. She said only in hindsight does she see the warning signs. 

‘[The virus] was in China,” she said about that time period. “We thought South America would be safer.”

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